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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

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to Providence. The three things are the leavening
effect of Christian charity, the assertion of the autonomy
of spiritual principle, and the insistence on the spiritual
character of personality. Apart from the softening
effect that religion often (but perhaps not always) has
had on manners and morals, these things have had their'
influences on the very texture of our Western civilisation.
In this sense Christianity has operated through the
centuries to greater effect than Christians themselves
have done, to greater effect indeed than Christians
sometimes seem to like it to do. It has operated for
liberty even when Christians are opposing liberty and
even when ecclesiastical authority has been the very
enemy that has had to be fought. It is 'remarkable to
see how greatly modern freedom has risen out of
Christian history and modern liberalism out of medieval
politico-ecclesiastical controversies. It is remarkable
to see how many of our freedoms have been built upon
an initial religious claim for liberty. In a similar way,
the assertion of the autonomy of the spiritual principle
in the Middle Ages prevented anything like absolutism
and produced in society a friction that was stimulating.
The conflict between ecclesiastical and lay authorities
allowed in any case greater play for the individual than
a completely totalitarian system admits of. In modern
times a Christianity in opposition—the Nonconformists
in England for example—inherited the claim that had
been asserted on behalf of the spiritual principle, the
claim that it should stand on its own feet and if necessary
not merely oppose the government but criticise the
very form of society on moral grounds. This Christ-